Ohio Medical Negligence Lawyers

Wrong site surgeries are all too common despite efforts to minimize their occurrence through a standardized “time out” before surgery.  The use of a timeout to identify the patient by name, date of birth, procedure, anatomy (including marking the site and side if applicable), patient position, relevant radiology result, antibiotic administration if applicable, and related safety precautions has become standard of care.  Specific efforts have been made to avoid wrong site spine surgery, that is, spine surgery that occurs at the wrong level of the spine.

Wrong site surgery on the spine occurs when a neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgeon or spine surgeon performs a procedure on the wrong level of the spine or the wrong patient.  These medical mistakes occur because proper standards of surgical care are not followed.  Adjacent spine levels look identical inside the surgical wound.  So, safe practice begins prior to incision.  According to one medical article, “wrong level spine surgery … is avoidable if every spine surgeon tries his/her best to prevent it to happen.”  Safe surgical practice requires that the spine surgeon be “compulsive to obtain a good quality x-ray so that the surgeon can reliably count the correct level ….”  The identification of congenital abnormalities is imperative.  One technique that is used is the placement of a screw at the proper level to localize the area of interest, particularly in the thoracic spine where medical errors occur most frequently.  One study found that use of a screw as a marker on an x-ray preoperatively reduced the risk of wrong level surgery to zero.

Wrong level spine surgery can occur in any type of back surgery, including fluoroscopic kyphoplasty, vertebroplasty, laminectomy, and fusion procedures.  In the instance of fusion procedures, sacrificing a functional level of the spinal column to unnecessary fusion leads to long-term complications.  Any time there is a fusion, the adjacent spine levels work off of the fused level like a fulcrum leading to painful damage that requires additional fusions.

As a medical malpractice lawyer, I have reviewed a number of cases involving wrong site spine surgery.  In each case, a settlement was reached based on the surgeon’s negligent care.  These are considered to be “never events,” i.e., events that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have determined should never happen.

When a wrong site surgery occurs, the patient not only must undergo a second surgery, complete with the anxiety associated with any surgery, but also must face the risks associated with spine surgery, including infection, a bleeding complication and paralysis.  Wrong site spine surgery can also result in additional pain due to the development of scar tissue at the surgical site. Finally, medical reports have shown that wrong site surgeries have resulted in paralysis.

When a wrong site spine surgery occurs, 99% of the time the case winds up in a medical malpractice lawsuit.  Our medical malpractice law firm has had success in resolving claims arising out of wrong level spine surgery on a pre-suit basis by working directly with the legal department of local hospitals.  Pre-suit settlement saves our clients on the cost of fees and expenses, while avoiding a protracted and anxiety-provoking litigation process.  Pre-suit settlement also is favored by the major hospital systems when the case is relatively clear-cut, since they avoid unnecessary fees and expenses associated with litigation.

If you have questions about a wrong site surgery, Mishkind Kulwicki Law Firm can help.  Please do not hesitate to call for a free, no-commitment consultation with one of our Ohio medical negligence lawyers.  We are here to answer your questions.